DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Changes to Colorado election rules allowing same-day voter registration and mail-in ballots for all registered voters are getting their first hearing in a state House committee on Monday.
The Democrat-sponsored bill would also eliminate the “inactive” voter designation, which currently applies to voters who skip even one election and restricts their ability to get ballots by mail.
About 80 people were signed up to testify before the bill’s possible first vote Monday. The committee hearing the bill is controlled by Democrats, giving the proposal good likelihood of initial passage. The full House would still need to consider it.
“This is exceptional legislation that will bring our elections into 21st century,” said Rep. Dan Pabone, D-Denver, who is sponsoring the bill with House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.
Republicans have criticized Democrats who wrote the bill, saying GOP leaders were left out of the process. Republicans also argue the changes are meant to benefit Democrats.
“This opens up bad policy, it kicks open the door to fraud,” Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler said.
Gessler says 180,000 people registered to vote last year in the two days before the deadline.
“So those 180,000 may be transferred all the way up on to Election Day, flooding counties with Internet traffic and problems, long lines,” Gessler said.
Democrats counter that the goal is to increase voter participation, regardless of party.
Under the bill, every registered voter in Colorado would get a ballot in the mail, but individuals would decide for themselves how to vote. They could mail back their ballots, or vote in person
Oregon and Washington mail ballots to every eligible voter, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
About 74 percent of Colorado voters cast a mail ballot in November, according to a letter to lawmakers from the state’s bipartisan County Clerks Association, which supports the proposed election changes. In the letter late last year, clerks called that figure “a clear mandate from the electorate.”
The letter also said the label of inactive voters should be addressed.
Clerks also wanted to allow more time for people to register to vote and clear up confusion about different deadlines, but they did not specifically call for same-day voter registration.
More than a dozen states have considered bills this year to allow same-day voter registration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
CBS4 staff contributed to this report.
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